Turn Your Phone or Tablet into a Mini Medical Center
New technology elevates your device from an everyday essential to a fully functional piece of medical equipment
If you're like many people, apps for your smartphone or tablet have taken away the need for things like maps, pedometers and newspapers. Now some apps, paired with peripherals, can even take away the need for certain doctor's visits.
These five app/device combos can turn your phone into a mini health screening and monitoring center. Of course, especially for serious issues, a doctor's care is best.
iBGStar ($74.99 plus costs of test strips; iOS only)
Blood sugar (glucose) monitoring is the cornerstone of diabetes care. The iBGStar is a pocket-sized glucose meter complete with lancing device. It works whether or not it is plugged into your iPhone, and it has its own charger, so you can use it whenever you need to.
When the meter is plugged into your phone, the iBGStar Diabetes Manager app syncs your data, offers actionable analysis and tracks statistics over time. It’s easy to send reports to medical professionals or caretakers via the app or on the web.
AliveCor Heart Monitor & AliveECG App ($74.99-$84.99; iOS or Android)
AliveCor is an FDA-approved heart monitor that provides invaluable data when paired with its accompanying mobile app, AliveECG. The duo monitors your heart rhythm and records an electrocardiogram (ECG), indicating your heart’s electrical activity. This system is designed to give an immediate warning if it detects atrial fibrillation (AF), a type of heart arrhythmia that is often the first warning sign of stroke or heart failure. Mapping AF and ECG patterns over time can help track heart performance problems.
The AliveCor monitor is available as a plug-in device for your phone or tablet. It can also be installed onto a sturdy case that fits your iPhone. It requires one long-lasting 3.0V coin cell battery. Using it is simple: Rest your fingers on designated points to take a reading and follow the app’s prompts. You can send the information to your doctor via the app or e-mail.
Related: Medical Problem? These Apps Can Help
Withings Blood Pressure Monitor ($129.95; iOS or Android)
High blood pressure (hypertension) often goes undetected — and untreated. There are several at-home blood pressure monitors on the market, but there are benefits to choosing one that plugs into a device you already use daily.
The Whitings Blood Pressure monitor is a wireless bluetooth device with few components. It requires three AAA batteries, which are included at purchase. The cuff is simple to use and much sleeker than a traditional one. The supporting Health Mate app provides clear instructions and immediate analysis of your blood pressure. It stores all readings for future access by you or your doctor. Health Mate syncs with several leading health apps, letting you track your fitness, too.
iHealth Wireless Pulse Oximeter ($69.95, iOS only)
Athletes: Your blood oxygen saturation (SpO2) gives you a picture of how efficiently your body takes in oxygen and moves it around. When it's too low, physical performance (and quality of life) suffers. The iHealth Pulse Oximeter gives you your SpO2 number on demand. (It's not intended to prevent or diagnose any specific medical condition.) Clip the small device onto your fingertip. It emits light through the skin to come up with a reading.
The device comes with its own USB charging cable and seamlessly integrates with the free iHealth SPO2 app that measures, tracks and shares results.
Kinsa Thermometer ($29.95, iOS or Android)
You may think of a thermometer as one of the most classically analog devices around, yet this offering from Kinsa is a favorite among parents for all of its “smart” features. The thermometer, which needs no battery of its own, plugs into your phone or tablet. It is made of easy-to-clean silicone and gives a reading in 10 seconds. It can be used orally, under the arm or rectally.
The app’s interface makes it easy to track temperatures and accompanying symptoms for every member of your family. You can take pictures and make notes to help your doctor prescribe the best treatment plan. It even has an animated screen to entertain kids while their temperature is being taken.